2020 may be already behind our backs but there’s still a lot to talk about, especially when you take into account that it was the best year in a decade for music performed by male seiyuu.
2020 was an awesome year filled with exciting and, at times, groundbreaking music releases for male seiyuu as solo artists, part of bands, seiyuu units or 2D idol/rock bands.
To compile everything neatly after covering this topic on SEIYUU LOUNGE’s episode 22 (video below), here’s the long promised written feature about the 11 Best Albums – includes singles, digital releases, mini-albums/EPs and albums – released by Male Seiyuu in 2020.
This article includes a highly subjective list, so, chances are, you don’t share the same tastes as I do.
And that’s okay. Actually, that’s one of the good things about music, we listen to the same things and have completely different reactions to the same music.
With that in mind, I welcome you to name your favorite albums released by male seiyuu in 2020 in the comments below.
Would love to know what were the releases that had you going in 2020, those that were your source of inspiration, energy and motivation.
Final note: The entries in this episode are ranked from #11 to #1.
Let’s explore this list.
Wataru Hatano “Never End! Summer!”
While I am not a big fan of music with a peppy summer vibe, Wataru Hatano managed to deliver quite the mature and more contained take on the genre.
But as much as I enjoyed “Never End! Summer!”, the song in the best song in the release is “Vivid Junction”.
Chilling, futuristic synthwave made its way into male seiyuu music territory. And I couldn’t be more excited about it.
In case you are not aware of, synthwave is the kind of music genre that feels like a revival of 80s synth-pop but attaches to it a futuristic vibe, a vibe of a future you’ve never lived but are nostalgic about.
This is a niche music genre that I thoroughly love. And, although the seiyuu and anisong industries love to explore trendy music genres, they leave in the corner niche music genres like synthwave.
So, when I came across “Vivid Junction”, I couldn’t believe what was happening. Male seiyuu performing synthwave! This was too good to be true.
And better yet, Wataru Hatano was singing it.
I love Hatano to bits, I find him as an insanely talented singer but, unfortunately, highly underrated, which is a pity, as he has one of the best voices and technique among seiyuu that are solo artists.
“Vivid Junction” was like a dream come true to me. And it has been on heavy rotation since I reviewed it.
“Vivid Junction” is the kind of song I don’t want to end.
TRIGGER “Crescent Rise”
Since I went to Hong Kong to watch the live viewing session of IDOLiSH7 2nd Live REUNION, I was in love with the title track.
“Crescent Rise” came as a complete surprise to me, as I was working abroad and I hadn’t picked up the game for the whole duration of my stint in Asia. Contrary to all other fans in attendance of that live, “Crescent Rise” was truly a new song for me, never before heard.
As soon as those overdriven guitars started playing, I knew this song would turn into my jam.
I love a good overdriven guitar part and dark instrumentalization in my favorite music and TRIGGER’s “Crescent Rise” had it all plus the awesome vocals of Wataru Hatano, Soma Saito and Takuya Sato on top, in what is one of the trio’s best performances to date.
From its debut in July 2019 to its release in January 2020, “Crescent Rise” was on top of my most anticipated releases list.
And the single itself came with Treasure!, song that explored funk and jazz, a first for the group and something that suited their vocals and image to a T.
TRIGGER’s “Treasure!” was on heavy rotation throughout the year, a must when I want to get some energy boost and feast on good vocals.
TRIGGER continue to standout with a unique sound and image within the 2D music industry. They have been absolutely on top of their game in terms of quality in their performances.
At the same time and, in a way, hand-in-hand with the maturity of their skills, comes as well a maturity and evolution in their music to better fit the vocals of the trio not only the 2D characters but also the seiyuu behind them.
TRIGGER’s “Crescent Rise” is one of the best releases in 2020.
OLDCODEX “Core Fade”
OLDCODEX were pretty quiet in 2020 but what they released was more than enough to make a bang and impress me.
OLDCODEX is band that I have been following since 2010 and really have enjoyed listening to their music and seeing + hearing how much they continue to innovate and evolve their sound and lyrics.
Tatsuhisa Suzuki also has one of the best voices among male seiyuu and is an awesome frontman thus, I am always excited about what OLDCODEX does next, even if disappoints me a bit or if it leaves my mouth wide open in awe.
“Core Fade” brought a lot of electronica to the mix but it is a sound that works perfectly well with OLDCODEX and Ta_2’s vocals. The title track was fresh and addictive whereas “Blow Away” made chills run down my spine.
Ta_2 has been showing a more emotional vein to his songs – lyrics and compositions – since 2019 and has been blowing away everyone with his emotional range and the band’s versatility to embrace such a delicate, fragile sound that heavily contrasts with their trademark rough image and sound.
The single also counted with “UPDRAFT”, a banger that is still pretty enjoyable to listen to.
Raring for new OLDCODEX music – and no, the remix album doesn’t count as new music for me -, hoping the band has new music in store for us in 2021.
RUBIA Leopard “TRIGGER”
In 2020, RUBIA Leopard were on fire.
The grunge rock band part of the DIG-ROCK franchise and fronted by Makoto Furukawa were one of the most exciting outfits in 2020.
There are only a couple of rock bands in the 2D music industry and most, unfortunately, are pretty generic about their approach to rock music, focusing on an easy-listening sound that is closer to pop-rock than it is gritty and heavy rock sound that calls for headbanging.
RUBIA Leopard filled that void for me. Their sound is explosive, gritty, far from beautiful yet with a bit of a rough allure underneath.
They are a band with a mature vibe and a really good mix of grunge rock and hard rock sound.
At the same time, RUBIA Leopard feature massive bass lines in their songs. I am a sucker for a good bass line and this band delivers those on a regular basis.
The band’s 1st mini-album, Trigger hit stores in December 2020 and was an instant favorite of mine. There’s their edge but also a delicate, gentler side that adds a cool duality to RUBIA Leopard’s image and sound.
I had “Chained to You” and “Higher Ground” playing on loop for quite some time, easily the best songs in that mini-album.
And because 1 rock release is not enough, GYROAXIA’s “SCATTER” finds its way into my list of favorite albums in 2020.
The punk-rock/pop-punk band has been making a case for themselves since early in 2020 and SCATTER was the release that stood out the most for me.
I was never a big fan of punk-rock, I find this rock sub-genre to be too loud and lacking the kind of depth that I enjoy in rock music still, I was quite curious to see how male seiyuu in a 2D/2.5D punk-rock band would fare.
And I was pleasantly surprised. For once I was having fun, letting go of my problems by singing and headbanging along to GYROAXIA’s music.
GYROAXIA create that type of music that is perfect to wind down to.
SCATTER was the 1st proper release of theirs that that I reviewed. It ended up leaving a lasting mark in me although the one that I listen to the most is EGOIST (conclusion here: GYROAXIA have a lot of bangers in their repertoire).
I went with no expectations to review SCATTER and I was left with my jaw dropping out of that powerful display by the band.
SCATTER is a banger of a single, a must listen for any fan of full throttle rock music.
Tetsuya Kakihara & Nobuhiko Okamoto “trust and play”
I had quite the contradictory feelings before reviewing “trust and play”.
This CD had everything to go wrong for me.
Kiramune’s artists bubbly pop music is not my cup of tea. I am not particularly fond of Nobuhiko Okamoto’s singing tone. And, to top it all off, this duo was way too unexpected and random, especially if you take some time to notice that Kakihara and Okamoto follow completely different directions – at times, polarizing – as solo artists and attract completely different types of fans to their music.
I was sure I would end up not enjoying “trust and play”.
And I couldn’t be more far off the mark.
Honestly, I love when these kinds of things happen. Having low expectations or sort of dreading reviewing something and then being completely blown away with a fantastic album or single.
Tetsuya Kakihara & Nobuhiko Okamoto “trust and play” ended up being one of my favorite albums of the year.
It is groovy, funky, playful but on a mature note, it is good, enjoyable music from start to finish.
And the vocals worked pretty well together. I was actually quite surprised that Okamoto was on level with Kakihara – who has improved by leaps and bounds as a singer to the point that he’s now one of the best singers in Kiramune.
As part of this duo, Nobuhiko Okamoto shone. He was confident, he was singing music that fits his image and age, a mature and classy sound, with a bit of allure to it. And he even wrote lyrics to some of my favorite songs in the mini-album.
Tetsuya Kakihara didn’t change much his environment as he’s been performing a sound pretty close to what we can find in “trust and play”. Still, it is worth mentioning his harmonies with Okamoto as well as the lyrics he penned in this release.
Tetsuya Kakihara & Nobuhiko Okamoto “trust and play” went under the radar for many seiyuu fans but it is, hands down, one of the best releases of the year. If you can, please do check it out.
“one morning” is the best song in this mini-album.
When it comes to Anthos, I could basically pick anything they release and I know, for sure, that I will like their music. They have a pretty unique, stripped down, almost chillout sound to themselves, something that I really enjoy.
Their music takes you to unique, ethereal soundscapes and even their more intense releases – like S.T.O.P – always have a relaxing undertone.
Anthos’ sound is tasteful, not exaggerating on EDM or going way too much into the peppy pop route.
They are quite exquisite and unique as far as 2D music groups go. On top of that, they have a good lineup that includes who I consider to be among the best singers in the seiyuu industry – Shunichi Toki, Kento Ito and Toshiki Masuda.
In 2020, “message” was the album of theirs that impacted me the most.
I am not one to enjoy tropical EDM but their take on the genre was tasteful and well accomplished. Add to it that it still captures that dreamy, chillout vibe about the group while going the trendy route and you get quite the awesome title track.
But “Silent Message” was the song that completely stole my heart. Love its washy synths and summery vibe.
It’s the kind of soundscape that I want to run away to and enjoy to the fullest. And those vocals? Pure quality.
Yuma Uchida “Over”
Uchida’s music is mainly pop with hints of R&B but, with each release, he tries something new to add to his trademark sound.
“Over” however, arrived as a completely new take on his sound.
Its leading track, “Over” is a massive pop-rock song with a bouncy bass line and exciting guitar riffs. A song that demanded a bit more of roughness and rawness from his vocals, something he was able to achieve.
Then things got really fresh and unexpected. “Loser” keeps that heavy, edgy rock sound but introduced trap and electronica to its core. As a result, the song is much darker than usual, easily the darkest that Uchida has in his repertoire.
But, at the same time he was in for an outstanding performance that mixed deep toned rap with clean high notes in the chorus and solid mid-tones in the quieter sections. He covered his vocal range quite well, and even threw a bonus to his fans by rapping.
This has been a trend since 2017 and almost all seiyuu as solo artists have slipped in one way or another, a rap verse in one of their songs to please their fans. Yuma Uchida went as far as adding quite a lot of rap parts in the middle of his clean singing sections, and those flowed pretty well.
The single wraps up with “Buzzer Beater” song that is a bit closer to what Uchida had been doing up until now. Rap and R&B influenced vocals clash to create one of the freshest songs on his repertoire.
It is intense even without the shredding guitars or live drums – replaced in that song by samples – and flows really well with the single.
Although I loved “Image”, “Over” takes the crown as Yuma Uchida’s best single in 2020.
SolidS are known for their sexy, risqué sound that wraps the listener around their fingers.
However, in 2020, their fans and even their voice actors all got to experience a completely different group as they put aside their sexy image and went with a classy, alluring jazz sound for their entry in the CARDS series.
DIAMOND arrived with a bang and made a lot of jaws drop.
The swing in “Game is Mine” was downright awesome and, weirdly enough, fit the group like a T.
It was a matured and much less “in your face hitting on you” sound, something that made fans look at SolidS with new eyes.
It’s no secret that SolidS have one of the best lineups among 2D units. Takuya Eguchi and Soma Saito are vocal chameleons, Natsuki Hanae is always reliable and has a lot of technique and flair in his voice and Yuichiro Umehara has developed into a dependable baritone with a growly, alluring voice tone that, more than ever, works perfectly with this group.
“Game is Mine” is a blast to listen to. Danceable, fast paced, addictive, with a lot of big band jazz swing going on and a massive contrabass bass line leading the way on top of all that brass. Certainly, a highlight and a nice change of pacing for SolidS that, in 2020, celebrated their 5th anniversary.
The main surprise however, came from the ballad in this release. You heard well. SolidS performed an emotional ballad.
This was a 1st for the group, something that even threw off some of the voice actors in the group, namely Takuya Eguchi and Soma Saito that recalled the recording as strangely refreshing.
Really sweet semi-acoustic ballad that had me reaching for that replay button time and time again.
SolidS’ DIAMOND is really a gem.
Makoto Furukawa “from fairytale”
Furukawa’s full band Jazz sound overflows elegance and tastefulness, counting with beautiful piano melodies, bouncy contrabass bass lines, fancy jazz drums that bring a lot of color to his music.
Makoto Furukawa has turned into one of the most exciting and refreshing solo artists among male seiyuu.
His music is fun, flamboyant, chaotic and intricate.
It’s a treat for fans of Jazz music like myself and the lyrics – penned by Furukawa himself, aside from 3 songs in the album – are pretty interesting, with motifs and stories that are fun to listen unfold.
Makoto Furukawa is a master at performing jazz music and you can tell that he loves it by how fun and engaging his performances are.
He’s feeling it and, as a result, you can’t help but to enjoy the flamboyance and swing of his jazz sound. It is addictive and tasteful.
It is fresh among everything male seiyuu have been doing as solo artists.
“from fairytale” is quite the awesome album filled with passionate performances by Makoto Furukawa, a unique jazz sound and fancy lyrics.
It is a fantastic 1st full-length album for him and, easily, one of the best albums in 2020.
I can’t stop talking about this album. Since its release on December 23, I have been taking turns at listening it with yet another big release of the year, Soma Saito’s “in bloom”.
Soma Saito “in bloom”
It is impossible not to recognize quality and talent in what Soma Saito pulled off with “in bloom”.
He reinvented his sound, he bared his heart – dark, dramatic and melancholic parts included – to his fans and made an honest album that defines him as a solo artist.
He’s exploring the sounds and melodies he loves, scrapping the rule book in music composition and doing his own thing, writing lyrics that have a depth and darkness that will leave you wondering about what he meant with those, and he is arranging his songs into what he wants his music to truly be like.
He has complete creative freedom and that enabled him to spread his wings, go outside of his comfort zone, explore things he was suppressing and challenge himself with music genres, lyrics and singing styles that, up until recently, you wouldn’t associate with Soma Saito, the solo artist.
“in bloom” is also quite the well-produced album. The issues that he had in “quantum stranger” on the mixing and mastering sides were not found in this release.
There was a balance in this album and all songs – even if different in tone and intensity – flowed seamlessly, something that cranks up the enjoyment you take from listening to it.
Sound levels were perfect for all instruments and the choice of instruments was tasteful throughout.
On the vocal end, Soma Saito made sure to be on top of his game. He is still developing his vibrato but it’s much more powerful than a couple of releases ago.
At the same time, he was not shy of going for head voice in some of the songs in the album. His falsetto shone, his low, growly notes were also present. His mid-tones are rock solid consistent.
Hard to find flaws in Saito’s vocals, he’s on a such a high level as a singer and still keeps on improving with each release.
On the composition side, there are no words that I haven’t said before to describe it.
For example, listen to “Isana”.
That song will make you cry, it will send chills down your spine. The shoegaze rock, distant and final instrumental and empty soundscape, in which you are slowly drowning, put you in a really strange place. Saito composed this song in quite the unique way, extending it for 8 minutes of drowning in sorrow.
Then Saito’s haunting, muffled, distant vocals deal the final blow, say the last goodbye, send you off. The apparent contained way in which he performs the song – instrumental and vocals – carries much more emotion underneath.
As far as masterful compositions go, “Isana” is among Saito’s best to date. Chills all over when listening to this song and a weird, bittersweet taste is left after listening to it.
You can’t help but to feel that you’ve just experienced something akin to “death” in this song, and you can’t escape from it. There’s no happy ending.
It is hauntingly beautiful.
On the opposite pole, Saito went full-on sexy for “Vampire Weekend” exuding a charisma and allure that, up until now, weren’t synonymous with his image as a solo artist.
And wrote, composed and arranged his first ever song, the nostalgic yet alluring, BOOKMARK. The arrangement credits were shared with guest rapper J, but you can already have an idea of what you can expect from Saito’s arrangements in the future: clean, bass-centric and carrying quite a lot of emotion.
Emo-rock, jazz, R&B, Bossa nova, shoegaze rock, loungy EDM, ballads, romantic songs and carefree surfer rock tunes. All these music genres showcase a composer with an extensive and deep music knowledge.
If there’s one thing that Soma Saito’s “in bloom” has set in stone – aside from being the best album released to date by a male seiyuu – is that he is a generational talent.
And what a pleasure it has been to see him blooming into the outstanding singer and songwriter that he is.
These were the 11 Best Albums released by Male Seiyuu in 2020.
2020 was a fantastic year for fans of male seiyuu and 2D group’s music. There was plenty of variety, a lot of quality, plenty of surprises and unexpected releases.
Hope you entered 2021 with a lot of favorite CDs released in 2020 in your backpack.
You can check an extended version of this article in podcast version (below) as well as in video version (can be found in the intro to this feature).
What were the CDs released in 2020 by male seiyuu, bands, seiyuu units or 2D groups that made it to your best of 2020 list? Leave those in the comments!